Point of Beginning

Gearing Up for Safety

May 1, 2001
Make sure you have your PPE (Personal Protective Equipment).

This picture is for illustrative use only. All elements contained within it may not meet rigid safety standards for all surveying projects.


In today’s world, we are confronted by acronyms all the time, for example, POB. After I authored my first article for this fine publication, I was discussing my endeavors with one of the locals, and he said that he couldn’t understand what safety had to do with those little round cardboard things that kids collect. After almost falling on the floor laughing I had to explain that I said POB not POG, and that it had to do with surveying. I guess that taught me that acronyms should only be used when you have first thoroughly explained the origin. PPE is an OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) acronym for Personal Protective Equipment. This specifically deals with those items that prevent trauma or chronic illnesses for an individual.

A common sales technique when selling safety equipment is to tell the purchaser that the equipment is “approved by OSHA.” If a salesperson makes this statement, you might want to question his or her knowledge. OSHA is not an approval agency. OSHA does write equipment standards and borrows others from various sources, most of the time from ANSI (American National Standards Institute). Under no circumstances will OSHA approve a product. It is, however, correct to say that equipment “meets OSHA standards.”

What you must always remember is that just because a product is sold in the United States, it doesn’t mean that it can be used in every situation. Some products are manufactured for residential use only. Employees can even find eye protection at the local hardware store or home center. They can purchase the cheapest pair of goggles and head to work. If the label doesn’t indicate that the goggles are rated for commercial use or ANSI Z-87.1, then they shouldn’t be used. Let’s say you purchased safety glasses with side shields for use when using hazardous chemicals. Even though the glasses might have the proper labeling, they will not be rated for use with liquids. You will need some type of acceptable goggles for that use. So, buyer beware! Know what you need to purchase before spending the money.

It would be impossible to thoroughly explain all of the PPE and other protective items listed in just one article. However, some are listed below. Also, visit the POB website at www.pobonline.com, to download a checklist of PPE. Both you and your employees need to have training on what PPE to use. The basis for determining if PPE is needed is the OSHA PPE Hazard Analysis. (Have you done yours yet?)

Hard hat—I like to see a bright color, but when working on some jobsites the color of a hard hat may be determined by the job description. Always purchase the ratchet type of suspension. This only costs three or four dollars more and is much easier for an employee to adjust. Don’t buy bump caps just because they are cheaper.

Eye protection—Clear safety glasses are a must-have item. I highly recommend employees also have dark safety glasses. Most employees want sunglasses on bright days, so why not buy safety glasses and kill two birds with one stone? Both must have side shields. Always make certain the protective eyewear is rated for the hazard your employee will encounter.

Protective gloves—In most cases a good pair of leather work gloves would be adequate. Hazardous liquids may require rubber or other types of impermeable gloves. Disposable gloves must always be available for BBP (Bloodborne Pathogen) encounters.

Protective footwear—All field crews should wear good quality work boots. The higher the boot, the more protection against sprained ankles. Consider steel-toed boots if there is a danger of something rolling or falling on an employee’s toes.

Appropriate clothing—There is a lot of flexibility here, but there are some things to avoid. In cold weather, employees must be dressed with layers and have enough clothing to keep warm. In most environments where there are trees, fences, ravines, etc., shorts and tank tops should be avoided. Insects, poisonous plants (ivy, oak or sumac) and high UV factors may require long sleeves even in hot climates. When working in landfills, UHWS (Uncontrolled Hazardous Waste Sites) or around any hazardous chemicals, other clothing (up to full protective suits) may be needed.

Dust mask respirator—Yes, even a dust mask is still a respirator. It is not a bad idea to have a rated dust mask in the event that a lot of dust is in the air. The mask must be rated for nuisance dust in commercial use. That generally means no single strap masks are acceptable. If there are any hazardous chemicals present, employees may need to be outfitted with a 1/2 face mask, full face mask or even an SCBA (Self Contained Breathing Apparatus).

Safety vest—This is the one item I do see many surveying crews wearing. Unfortunately, most of the vests they are wearing are not appropriate for the conditions present. Although OSHA doesn’t have specific guidelines for vests, they refer to ANSI guidelines. ANSI specifies types of vests based upon speed of traffic as one criteria. This is one area that purchasing a four dollar vest will end up costing much more than purchasing a more expensive vest. The better vests will stand up to wooded areas and most can be washed. A regular “surveyors vest” is my choice. They have ample pockets and are available in all classes.

Fire extinguisher—OSHA requires fire extinguishers on all heat producing equipment. This includes motor vehicles, including ATVs (All Terrain Vehicles).

First-aid kit—An acceptable first-aid kit must be in all field vehicles. If crews will be working at quite a distance from their vehicle, I recommend a “fanny pack” first-aid kit with all the basics. In areas where poisonous snakes are a problem you should add a snake bite treatment to all kits. Bee sting kits should be a part of all first aid kits, too.

Warning signs—The MUTCD (Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices) specifies in Part VI how a surveying crew should warn motorists of the surveying activity. Surveying crews are in the top 10 occupations involved in fatalities as the result of a motor vehicle accident. Everything we do to demarcate the work zone will help reduce the potential for a deadly accident. The bare minimum of signs per vehicle should be two sets; in most situations, four sets should be used. However, when surveying in an intersection or on high-speed roadways, such as interstate highways, there may even be a need for eight or 12 sets. If you are still using the heavy steel signs, consider making a change to the foldable lightweight products now available.

Safety cones—I generally always find some cones in survey vehicles. Very seldom are they the correct size or are there enough of them. I consider the bare minimum of cones to be 12 to 14 per vehicle. I quite often find 12” or 18” cones in use. The 12” cones really have no place in your vehicle and are commonly referred to in the industry as “soccer cones.” You are permitted to use 18” cones in some low speed areas, but you will need 28” cones in higher speed applications. Since it doesn’t make sense to carry two sizes of cones, I recommend 28” cones as a minimum. All cones need to have reflective stripes if employees will be working in inclement weather or other reduced lighting situations.

Stop paddles/flags—Using flags for traffic control should be under emergency situations only! A planned work site is not an emergency. If you must use flags, they should be of the proper size, weighted at the hanging end, on the proper staff and reflective in diminished lighting situations. Stop/Slow paddles are the preferred way to control traffic through a lane closing. The paddles should be of the proper diameter and height for the conditions in your work zone. ANSI and the MUTCD both contribute to this determination.

Personal Fall Arrest System (PFAS)—When employees are exposed to a fall in construction of over 6', they must have some type of fall protection. The protection could include guarding or nets, but most likely would be a PFAS. Normally, a PFAS would include a harness, lanyard, a rope or wire, and at least one or more anchoring points for the rope or wire.

Coast Guard rated flotation work vest—Anytime employees are working over, around or on water, they must be protected with equipment to prevent drowning. This is not the same type of life vest you would wear on a leisure boat trip. The vest must have the Coast Guard rating for work use. Don’t forget areas such as WWTP (Wastewater Treatment Plants).

Life saving ring—A standard Coast Guard rated lifesaving ring with at least 90' of rope is required under the same conditions as the work vest.

Life saving skiff—When working on or around water that is deep enough to support a boat, a life saving skiff must be available as well as personnel trained in water rescue. On a construction site you would normally find the general contractor providing this boat and personnel. If not, this might be a great reason to buy a new bass boat!

Confined space entry equipment—When employees are entering PRCS (Permit Required Confined Spaces), items including tripod, rescue winch, fall protection winch, harness, gas meters, intrinsically safe radios, intrinsically safe flashlights, along with a myriad of other special rescue and safety equipment may be required. It may be wise to use a four-gas meter to check manhole covers before opening them, even if you won’t be entering.

You may need additional safety equipment when encountering other unusual situations. Every employee required to wear PPE should be trained in what PPE is necessary, how to put it on, take it off, adjust it and properly wear it. They should also know the limitations of the PPE, and the proper care, maintenance, useful life and disposal of the PPE. Under OSHA guidelines, the employer is required to pay for almost all PPE. The only exceptions could be some types of protective work boots and prescription eyewear. The determining factor here would probably be if the employee would be likely to wear those items when not working.

I hope this has given you an idea of the safety equipment you need to have available. Not only is it a law that you provide these items, but you also have a moral obligation to protect your employees. WWYDWT? (What Would You Do Without Them)?